Top 3 Recruiting Challenges For Small Businesses (And How To Overcome Them)

Taking the time to recruit great people can result in passionate, productive and driven employees who will help your business grow and succeed.

Many small business owners are finding themselves fully immersed in the growth cycle of their businesses. Recruiting great people is a vital element in sustaining and supporting this growth.

While the concept of recruiting is fairly simple and straightforward, it does bring about several challenges, in particular to small businesses.


1. The ‘Warm Body Syndrome’

Startups and small business owners wear multiple hats which requires quick action and industry expertise. You’re often too busy working in the business instead of working on the business which can lead to hasty hiring decisions that do not align with your overall business strategy (and business need).

The complexities of daily operations and myriad of responsibilities can cause a state of overwhelm and cause you to hire the first warm body that walks through the door to fill production gaps and meet demand. This is always bad news!

Some warm bodies are a positive fit in terms of skills and capabilities, but more often than not, they end up causing organizational turmoil due to a bad culture fit.



Like any bad habit, the warm body syndrome is hard to break. The key is creating a new pattern for hiring that is focused on value rather than time constraints. Creating a detailed job description through a job analysis is crucial.

Keep in mind that job candidates should demonstrate knowledge, skills and abilities that fit the job responsibilities. The position should not be molded to fit the candidate’s competencies.


2. Hiring Culture Fit

The significance of company culture fit lies in its connection to retention rates and productivity. Cultural fit is imperative to workplace functions. The challenge arises when a department is small, maybe even comprised of one or two people.

Can one or two employees truly embody the culture without overpowering it? In most cases, allowing employees to define culture results in control issues.


Photo: © adam121, YFS Magazine
Photo: © adam121, YFS Magazine



In order to avoid a power struggle with an existing employee that may clash with your company culture, try including that employee in the recruiting process. Ask the existing employee to interview candidates as well, then regroup and share insights.

Consider hiring qualified candidates for a 1-3 day trial period. The existing employee can act as a guide and trainer. The trial period will help assess the candidate’s performance and fit.

Next, be clear about roles and responsibilities. Outline the chain of command and where each person falls within the organizational structure. Clear and transparent communication is critical.


3. Engaging in Talent Wars

Small business owners feel disadvantaged in the marketplace since they often cannot compete with big budget firms for top talent. They do not have access to the same resources (e.g., recruiting agencies, recruiting ads, etc.) as larger players.



This challenge necessitates some creativity. Powerful recruiting methods do not need to be expansive. The key is capitalizing on small business strengths and the weaknesses of large companies.

Networking with attendees at industry-related events such as conferences, trade shows and meet-up groups is a powerful recruiting method. Your next employee may be a fellow attendee.

Also, attend events for complimentary industries. Building a personal connection sets you apart from large, impersonal firms and ultimately makes potential hires more likely to remember you and your business.

Remember that your customers are your best advocates. Your favorite customer may be looking for a job or a career change. Your customers are already passionate and knowledgeable about your industry; all you’d need to provide is operational training.


Recruiting can be challenging, especially for a small business owner. Warm body syndrome, hiring for cultural fit and competition for talent are constant threats to small business recruiting.

When working through these challenges, it is important to keep in mind that owning a successful small business starts with great people. Taking the time to recruit great people can result in passionate, productive and driven employees who will help your business grow and succeed.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Danielle Gal is a Program Coordinator at the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at the University of Central Florida. The FSBDC is an economic development organization dedicated to supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs by providing one-on-one consulting, training and market research. Danielle is passionate about human resources and assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs in their quest for success. Danielle’s areas of work include professional development, market research and international trade. Connect with @sbdcorlando on Twitter.


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